The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

October 23, 2012

Union County murder defendant Roderick Sims objects to all-white jury

LEWISBURG -  Looking out over the 100 or so prospective jurors who packed the Union County courtroom Monday, homicide suspect Roderick Sims made it clear to his defense attorneys that he wasn’t happy.

Sims, 50, of Milton, is a black man charged with gunning down his estranged girlfriend, Charity Spickler, a 27-year-old white woman, in a Lewisburg apartment on Sept. 28, 2008.

Every prospective juror summoned for Sims’ murder trial, which begins today, was white. The chosen jury panel consists of seven men, five women and four male alternates.

“It is an issue,” said defense co-counsel Michael Dennehey, who filed a formal objection that none of the prospective jurors were black. “My client is not pleased.”

According to the 2010 census, 7.8 percent of the Union County population is black.

While the census data may have been “skewed somewhat” by the federal prison in Lewisburg, Dennehey said even if half the inmates were African-American, there should have been more racial diversity in the jury pool.

Despite his objection, Dennehey said he believes the jurors will be fair.

“We trust these people,” he said.

Sims’ sister, Edwana Sims, of Shamokin Dam, wasn’t so sure an all-white jury would be able to fairly decide her brother’s fate. He faces life in prison, if convicted.

District Attorney D. Peter Johnson declined to comment.

Sims, who wore a charcoal gray suit, conferred quietly with his attorneys, Dennehey and John McLaughlin, throughout the lengthy jury selection during which candidates were asked to respond to a series of questions.

One of the questions from the defense was whether any potential jurors had formed an opinion based on the race of the suspect and victim. No hands were raised.

Sims, who has lived in the Valley for about a decade and had three children with Spickler, has raised racial bias as an issue during prior court appearances.

He showed little outward emotion in court even when his mother, Carolyn Crafton, of New Jersey, entered the courtroom with his sister.

Declining comment on the race issue with a wan smile, Crafton said she would attend the trial daily in support of her eldest of six children.

The trial is scheduled to begin this morning.

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